Quantcast

COUNTRY GRAMMYS' ROOTS ARE SHOWING

What is country music? What’s made on Music Row? Played on Country radio? Held up as the pure stuff at the Americana Conference? Ensconced in the Country Music Hall of Fame? What Sturgill Simpson played, busking for what amounted to a fistful of dollars, outside the CMA Awards at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena?

Truth is: yup. As Walt Whitman wrote of the conflicting reality of all complex beings, “I contain multitudes.”

And if the Recording Academy is truly the melting pot of all genres, this year’s country and adjacent nominees reflect not just the nuances of a genre that’s never been more diverse but the reach as well. A place where Americana force Jason Isbell’s chick-a-boom redux of Johnny Cash’s “All I Do Is Drive” can compete with CMA Entertainer of the Year Luke Combs’ new wedding classic, “Forever After All,” for Best Country Solo Performance makes the genre wide-open enough to allow all types of music inside.

So many subgenres are represented. Whether it’s CMA sweeper Chris Stapleton’s soulful country (landing somewhere between Willie Nelson, The Allman Brothers and Waylon Jennings) pulling Solo Performance (“You Should Probably Leave”), Song (“Cold”) and Album (Starting Over); progressive conscience Mickey Guyton’s Solo Performance, Song and Album (“Remember Her Name,” Remember Her Name); or hard-line classicist Simpson’s Appalachian/bluegrass-miner/Old West Album nomination (The Ballad of Dood & Juanita), the expanse of country music shines.

After much kerfuffle over the placement of Kacey Musgraves star-crossed album, “camera roll” earned nods for both Country Solo Performance and Country Song. As a woman who blurs lines between genres, the Texas-born songwriter, who won both Album of the Year and Country Album in 2019, makes her presence felt.

Miranda Lambert, another Lone Star stalwart, scored with two separate sets of collaborators. The raucous “Drunk (& I Don’t Want to Go Home)” with alternative rocker Elle King picked up Duo/Group, while her Marfa Tapes teaming with songwriter/producer Jon Randall and Texas troubadour Jack Ingram landed in Country Album.

In a year of such deep division, the Duo/Group category saw wildly divergent nominees. Massively mainstream Jason Aldean and Carrie Underwood (“If I Didn’t Love You”) compete with Lambert and King, the creamy pop-country of Dan + Shay (“Glad You Exist”), husband-and-wife troubadours Ryan Hurd and Maren Morris (“Chasing After You”) and the hard-jamming Brothers Osborne (“Younger Me”), who also earned an Album nod (for Skeletons).

In terms of “country/Americana so white,” beyond Guyton, several categories saw real inclusivity. It’s heartening seeing Jimmie Allen’s ’90s-grounded country, which evokes Brooks & Dunn’s spunk, Ronnie Milsap’s soul and Charley Pride’s ability to weave Hank Williams with country of the moment, representing the format in Best New Artist. Meanwhile, all five of the American Roots Song nominees were performed by Black artists who draw heavily on country music’s roots. Rhiannon Giddens with Francesco Turrisi (“Avalon”), Valerie June featuring Carla Thomas (“Call Me a Fool”), Jon Batiste (“Cry”), Yola (“Diamond Studded Shoes”) and Allison Russell (“Nightflyer”) represent not just the reach of country's influence but also the diversification of what has been an exceptionally white genre.

Americana Album also reflects a truer America. Beloved icons Jackson Browne (Downhill From Everywhere) and John Hiatt, with the Jerry Douglas Band (Leftover Feelings), go up against Los Lobos (the California homage Native Sons), Russell (Outside Child) and Yola (Stand for Myself). And Mary Chapin Carpenter, who won back-to-back-to-back country Grammys in the ’90s, returns in Best Folk Album with Giddens and Turrisi, bluegrass’ Sarah Jarosz, Madison Cunningham and Tyler Childers.

Also intriguing: the massive group of Nashville-oriented women writers behind Alicia Keys and Brandi Carlile’s “A Beautiful Noise.” Ruby Amanfu, Carlile, Brandy Clark, Keys, Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna, Linda Perry and Hailey Whitters find themselves nominated for Song of the Year in a category featuring music from all over the musical spectrum.

And don’t worry about country’s legends—Willie and Dolly weren’t forgotten; each received a nomination for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album, Nelson with That’s Life and Parton with A Holly Dolly Christmas. Which only confirms that country is one of the tributaries feeding the vast river that pop has become.

REPUBLIC UPS GOLDSTEIN, ROPPO TO CO-PRESIDENTS
Team Lipman doubles up. (11/26a)
CHART FINAL:
THE BIGGEST BOW
OF THE YEAR
Big numbers for "30." (11/29a)
COUNTRY GRAMMYS' ROOTS ARE SHOWING
Deck the Grammys with boughs of Holly. (11/24a)
THE BRITISH
ARE COMING
Rolling out our U.K. Special print issue (11/24a)
PUTTING THE POP
IN POPCORN
Putting the audio into audio-visual. (11/29a)
CHESTNUTS
Roasting.
STOCKINGS
Stuffing.
PIPERS
Piping.
SANTA
Coming.
 Email

 First Name

 Last Name

 Company

 Country
CAPTCHA code
Captcha: (type the characters above)